Crespelle with ricotta and spinach are a typical dish of the Florentine tradition: they look like thin pancakes and are filled and rolled up as cannelloni, as they were fresh pasta.
Apparently, Caterina de’ Medici, a Florentine noblewoman who married the future king of France Henry II in 1533, was so attached to her native food that she took a crowd of Florentine chefs and our crespelle to France, later named by our transalpine cousins crêpes. Nowadays, you can order crespelle alla Fiorentina in many traditional trattorias in Florence, but it’s worth losing some time and making them at home, to celebrate a special day, or just to treat your beloved ones to a rich first course.
Read more about the traditional Florentine style crespelle with ricotta and spinach here.
Once you know how to make and roll up crespelle, you can set tradition aside for a moment, play with the ingredients and fill them with your favourite seasonal vegetables or even a meat or fish sauce.
Butternut Squash and Ricotta Crêpes – Crespelle di zucca
Now, in autumn, pumpkin and butternut squash are generously piled at the market. Roasted butternut squash with a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and black pepper is my favourite autumn side dish. You can use leftover roasted butternut squash or even roast a whole tray of squash just for this recipe, saving a few slices for your next meal.
These butternut squash and ricotta crêpes might look quite daunting, but the good news is that you can prepare the required ingredients – crespelle, besciamella, butternut squash and ricotta filling – in advance, and bake the crespelle before dinner. You can even prepare the final dish the day before and reheat it with a drop of milk before your family, or your friends, sit at the table.
Butternut Squash and Ricotta Crêpes
Ingredients for the crespelle
- 3 eggs
- 3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 pinch salt
- 300 ml (1¼ cups) whole milk
Ingredients for the filling
- 500 grams (1 lb) butternut squash, peeled and deseeded
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 400 g (1⅔ cups) fresh ricotta
- 80 g (¾ cups) grated Pecorino Romano, or Parmigiano Reggiano, or a mixture of both
- Fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Grated nutmeg
- 1 egg
Ingredients for the besciamella
- 50 g (1¾ oz) butter
- 60 g (½ cups) all-purpose flour
- 600 ml (2½ cups) of whole milk
- 1 pinch salt
- Grated nutmeg
Ingredients to finish the dish
- 2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano
- 8 sage leaves
- Extra virgin olive oil
Prepare the crespelle batter.
- Whisk the eggs with flour and a pinch of salt. Remove all the flour lumps. Pour the milk in a thin stream and whisk to incorporate. Cover the bowl with cling film and put in the fridge for about one hour.
Prepare the filling.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C /400°F.
- Slice the butternut squash into 1 cm thick slices. Season with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, grated nutmeg, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
- Roast the butternut squash for about 30 minutes, until soft and slightly golden and caramelized on the edges.
- When the squash is cold, smash it with a fork, then add it to a bowl with the ricotta, the grated Pecorino, a pinch of nutmeg, and salt. Mix thoroughly with a fork, then taste it: it should have a faint smell of nutmeg and be savoury enough from the cheese and salt. Should it be too bland, add more grated cheese. Beat an egg and stir into the filling. Set aside.
Prepare the crespelle.
- Heat a 20cm large non-stick pan on medium heat. Soak a paper napkin in olive oil and brush with it the hot pan.
- Pour about ½ cup of the crespelle batter into the pan and swirl to cover it with a thin layer. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the crespella becomes golden brown on the edges, then with a spatula flip it and cook also on the other side for one more minute.
- Move the first crespella onto a plate and prepare the second one. You should obtain 8 crespelle.
Make the béchamel sauce.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat. When melted, spoon in the flour and whisk for a few minutes until golden and toasted.
- Pour in the cold milk in a thin stream, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.
- Cook on medium-low heat until thickened and season with a good pinch of salt and grated nutmeg.
Assemble the crespelle.
- Now that you have all the ingredients you need - crespelle, besciamella and filling - preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F.
- Spread each crespella with the butternut squash and ricotta filling: roll them up as a cannellone or fold them in four as a handkerchief.
- Arrange the crespelle slightly overlapping in a baking dish previously spread with a few tablespoons of besciamella.
- Drizzle the crespelle with the remaining besciamella, then arrange a sage leaf on top of each crespelle. Sprinkle with more grated Pecorino and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
- Transfer to the oven and bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown and bubbling on the sides.
- Eat the crespelle hot just out of the oven or, even better, warm them the day after with a dash of milk.
More recipes with butternut squash from the blog archive
- Butternut squash parmigiana. You know that eggplant parmigiana is my favourite dish. If I could, I would eat it all year round in spite of the season. Well, I found a worthy substitute that does not make me regret the eggplant.
- A roasted pumpkin salad. For the first Sunday lunch at home, along with the most classic roasted chicken, I prepared this salad, a warm roasted pumpkin salad with peppery rocket, black olives, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and toasted pine nuts. Everyone had a second helping of this salad, which grabbed the spotlight from my carefully roasted chicken, with the most exquisite crisp golden skin.
- Butternut squash cake. This butternut squash cake reminds me of the good smell of home, of a welcoming kitchen, of a quiet breakfast at the kitchen table. Since then I baked the cake several times, fascinated by the moist texture given by the butternut squash pureed with yoghurt.